Scammers Continue to Target Utility Customers Threatening Disconnection Unless Payment Made
The scammers claim that there is a problem with the victim's utility account, such as an overdue bill, and demands an immediate payment to avoid disconnected service
Consumers from across the state are continuing to report suspicious phone calls from scammers that are seemingly from their utility companies. The callers claim that there is a problem with the victim's utility account, which is usually an overdue bill. The victim is then threatened with that power to their homes or businesses will be shut off within an hour unless a payment is made immediately.
Just an Elaborate scam
In this scam, crooks use technology to fake the phone number on the caller ID. So when the call comes through, the name of the customer's utility company, such as Duke Energy, displays on the caller ID. These scammers will also often use a prepaid phone, making the calls next to impossible to trace. In a recent version of this scam, con artists are taking extra steps to convince you that their call is legitimate, such as transferring you to speak to a "supervisor" during the call and even by playing music for you while you're on hold.
Fake Government program
In another reported adaptation of this scam, con artists try to convince you that a government program will help you pay your bills. They say signing up for the program is as simple as providing your Social Security number and your bank's routing number before paying your bill through an automated telephone system. That is the setup, but the scammer's goal is to make you a victim of identity theft by harvesting your private information.
Thousands of dollars lost
Most people see through the scam, but some don't and lose thousands of dollars. Con artists know that victims will respond if there is a consequence, so they often threaten to turn off power within the hour of the call if the victim doesn't pay.
Victims are sometimes instructed to send their payment by wire but are increasingly told to deposit money into a specific account or to put funds on a prepaid debit card or gift card and then call back to provide the card number. Requests for payments via gift card is a sure sign of a scam.
Remember, if someone calls you claiming there's a problem with your account and requests money or personal information from you, hang up. If you have a question about your utility account, contact the company directly at a number or website you know to be valid, such as one listed on your monthly bill.